Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Biking For The Best

The uphill climb is tough; it's you against the road.  It's a challenge to not stop pedaling until the top is reached.  Before too long you start to whisper the childhood mantra, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can." (The Little Engine That Could by Walter Piper)  Once you crest the peak and enjoy the view, you give a little push and fly down the other side.  It's a reward for a job well done.

Growing up bicycles were our main transportation everywhere; every single day, mile after mile from the small community, we would ride to the countryside.   Hardly anyone had cars even when they were seniors in high school.  I owned my first car after graduation from college.  In nasty weather a bicycle is not the best way to get from place to place but otherwise it's great exercise, low maintenance, no insurance, no expense for gasoline and easy on the environment.

Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World (Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, March 28, 2017) written and illustrated by Allan Drummond salutes the significance of one.  One person can make a difference.  If one person connects with other like-minded people, change can and will happen.

Today, if you visit the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, you'll see people on bicycles buzzing about everywhere:

Any place a bike can go, they will be there.  They are used by young and old alike for a variety of purposes.  There are bikes designed for specific people and specific tasks.  The number of bikes is far greater than the number of cars.

Bikes rule the road.

More than thirty years ago, Amsterdam streets and roads were filled with cars roaring to and from their destinations.  It was risky navigating the traffic on a bike.  Maartje Rutten decided to do something about this dangerous situation for two-wheeled riders.  Like a chain reaction, the word spread from person to person.  People protested all across the Netherlands.  At first people (of all ages) were upbeat and positive, drawing attention to their cause but that all changed.

Headlines were made with the death of a young girl who was simply going to school on her bike.  Her father gathered statistics which surprised and angered people.  It was bikers versus automobile drivers as the amount and tenor of protests increased.  The car owners were even angrier when they were told they could not drive in Amsterdam on Sunday in order to save fuel.

A Sunday with no automobiles on the road was exactly what Maartje needed.  A brave move was made.  It ended (or maybe it began) at the police station.  The results are seen today not only in Amsterdam but around the world.  Power to the pedals powered by people.

In his Author's Note Allan Drummond addresses the evolution of this title.  As in many cases, when you are researching one thing, it leads you to a revelation of another.  In this instance it took him to Maartje Rutten.

Short, simple statements take us from the present to the past and back to the present again.  Single sentences are separated over two pages to provide a cadence.  Bicycle bells ringing and conversation bubbles add to the upbeat, informative narrative.  Key points from research are woven into his perspective; parties in the streets, meeting the Dutch prime minister in front of his home and the key part played by children.  Here is a sample passage.

"Something's wrong," said Maartje.  "The roads belong to all of us, not just cars and trucks."

Her friends agreed.  "Cities like Amsterdam need bikes."

Everyone began to speak up.

Word got around and people started protesting, not just in Amsterdam but all over the Netherlands.

The loose, delicate lines, meaningful details and warm, soft color palette associated with books written and illustrated by Allan Drummond are prevalent on the matching dust jacket and book case.  The scene on the front shows cyclists from the past enjoying a ride over a bridge in Amsterdam after they have made progress.  To the left, on the back, is an interior image of Maartje, two children and two other protesters when she proposes her grand idea.  It's raining but she is determined, holding a sign with the power fist as a part of a bicycle.

Drummond's opening and closing endpapers and dedication/publication page are marvelous illustrating how bicycles have impacted the world, how they are used, types of bicycles, and famous cyclists.  He wastes no space using crisp white backgrounds to highlight his visuals.  To supply emphasis and pacing he alternates between many small images over several pages to one illustration spanning two pages.  Sometimes we feel as though we are in the picture, other times we are observing the scene.   Regardless of the perspective these illustrations are alive with motion and mood. Text is placed above, below and within the images.  Drummond's research is evident in the architecture, clothing, bicycles, protest signs and items pertinent to the time period featured.

One of my favorite illustrations is at the beginning of the book.  It's a bird's eye view of the city of Amsterdam today.  Portions of buildings frame the background and right side.  Rooftops line part of the bottom of the image with birds in flight.  Bicycle riders are everywhere.  There is hardly any traffic; a streetcar, two cars and a small freight truck.  Bike bells are ringing.  The truck driver calls out:  After you!  This is a scene of happy comings and goings.

With Earth Day arriving in seventeen days, this title, Pedal Power written and illustrated by Allan Drummond, will serve to inform and inspire.  Like his previous title, Green City, we become acquainted with committed people who are working to build a better environment for their day to day living.  Along with his Author's Note he has listed five interesting, supportive sources.  I enjoyed reading several of them.  They can be used to expand discussions.

To learn more about Allan Drummond and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Here you can see a few images not shown at the publisher's website.  At the publisher's website you can view several interior illustrations.

Make sure you stop by Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by Alyson Beecher to view the other titles selected by bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed Allan Drummond's earlier book, Green City, and I used to live near Amsterdam, so I can't wait to read this title!